Beau Brummel is possibly one of the most famous dandies of the Regency period but, in spite of his aristocratic connections, he was of a much lower class. His grandfather was a shopkeeper but his father was secretary to Prime Minister Lord North, so the young man was not unfamiliar with the highest echelons of society.
Born in London in 1778 as George Bryan Brummel, the boy was fascinated by aristocrats from an early age. His grandfather rented rooms to gentlemen so the young George was able to observe how they dressed and acted. Educated at Eton and later Oriel College, Oxford, he was noted for his literary ability and was runner up for the Newdigate prize.
That was how he came to the attention of Prince George the Prince Regent and was chosen to join the Prince’s Regiment where he quickly rose through the ranks until he became a Captain of the Tenth Hussars. His wit, charm and, above all, dress sense, made him popular with the Prince and he soon became counted among the royal circle of friends. His style became the standard for the others to aspire to and the Prince Regent himself copied it - even though his figure was much less suited for the fashion.
On the death of his father George Brummel inherited a considerable fortune and set himself up in an elegant house in Mayfair where he entertained the cream of London society. But he had no income and his expensive tastes and gambling habit soon diminished his reserves of cash. With the cash went his former friends, including the Prince, and he was forced to leave the country to avoid imprisonment as a severe debtor.
He went to France but still managed to increase his debts - resulting in prison, in spite of his efforts to avoid it. After that he lost interest in his looks and appearance and eventually was committed to an insane asylum in Caen where he died, penniless, in 1840.